The brain needs sufficient oxygen in order to function normally. This is achieved by a large vascular capillary network ensuring that oxygen supply meets the changing demand of the brain tissue, especially in situations of hypoxia. Brain capillaries are formed by endothelial cells and perivascular pericytes, whereby pericytes in the brain have a particularly high 1:1 ratio to endothelial cells. Pericytes not only have a key location at the blood/brain interface, they also have multiple functions, for example, they maintain blood–brain barrier integrity, play an important role in angiogenesis and have large secretory abilities. This review is specifically focused on both the cellular and the molecular responses of brain pericytes to hypoxia. We discuss the immediate early molecular responses in pericytes, highlighting four transcription factors involved in regulating the majority of transcripts that change between hypoxic and normoxic pericytes and their potential functions. Whilst many hypoxic responses are controlled by hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF), we specifically focus on the role and functional implications of the regulator of G-protein signaling 5 (RGS5) in pericytes, a hypoxia-sensing protein that is regulated independently of HIF. Finally, we describe potential molecular targets of RGS5 in pericytes. These molecular events together contribute to the pericyte response to hypoxia, regulating survival, metabolism, inflammation and induction of angiogenesis.
- Cell- och molekylärbiologi